For The Associated Press
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) -Missouri junior linebacker Sean Weatherspoon is racking up so many tackles he sometimes loses count.
That's a good thing for a defense that got off to a rocky start but is making strides for the sixth-ranked Tigers (4-0), who are coming off a 42-21 victory over Buffalo on Saturday.
``We don't take winning for granted, but we still need to fix the little things,'' Weatherspoon said after the Buffalo game. ``I was just trying to make some plays for the team and I know I missed a few tackles so I need to work on that.''
Even so, he finished with 20 to earn Big 12 defensive player of the week. He has 48 tackles for the season - the most in the Big 12 and tied for second nationally. Eight have been for a loss. He also has three interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns.
Missouri has a bye this week and will need Weatherspoon and the defense at their best in the Tigers' Big 12 opener on Oct. 4 at Nebraska, where they haven't won in 30 years.
linebacker Brock Christopher likes the way Weatherspoon goes about his business.
``He's an animal and makes all kinds of plays and makes guys helmets come off,'' Christopher said.
Weatherspoon's play has been a bright spot on a defense that has shown improvement since giving up more than 500 yards and 42 points in the season-opening 52-42 win over Illinois.
Since then, the defense has moved from near the bottom nationally to the middle of the pack at No. 78. Fortunately for Missouri, the offense is averaging nearly 54 points per game.
Teammates and coaches say Weatherspoon's boisterous rallying of the troops is integral in the defensive unit's steady progression.
``He is a great kid, a great leader and is a lot of high energy,'' coach Gary Pinkel said. ``He's a good student and a great guy.''
Last season was Weatherspoon's first as a starter, and Pinkel said he's come a long way.
``He eventually turned into an All-Big 12 linebacker,'' the coach said. ``He was a better player each month and became one of our best defensive players, going from being an average player to a good player to being a great player by the time the (Big 12) championship game came around.''
Weatherspoon may not be keeping track of his tackles, but he isn't bashful about giving his teammates - especially the defensive backs - an earful about his other accomplishments.
ng from over near the dorms,'' quarterback Chase Daniel said. ``His goal for this season was six interceptions and he is already halfway there, and he lets the defensive backs hear about it, too.''
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